CHRIS MOON IN NEW YORK, MARCH 2015.
East London-born and based contemporary artist Chris Moon has been collected by the likes of Michael Fassbender, Paul McCartney, and Gemma Arterton, yet it wasn’t until this past weekend that he made his U.S. debut. In a pre-war, Chelsea studio space on 11th Avenue, Moon presented his most recent body of work, “Carousel,” as a small pop-up exhibition. Each of the six paintings on view reflected Moon’s experiences during the past three months in which he lived and created work in New York. Recurring subject matter included the carousel at Chelsea Piers rendered through Moon’s tantalizing and figurative brushstrokes, which are often compared to those of 20th century expressionist, surrealist, and at times cubist painter Francis Bacon. Even though the pop-up exhibition is over, two of the works will be on view at Norwood Club in New York beginning this Friday, March 13.
In many of his paintings, Moon employs the technique of underpainting, meaning that when an idea strikes, he runs with it, painting over the original idea and image. For the artist, the excitement lies within the space between perfection and destruction, a place where his vision has become clear, yet is simultaneously in flux. It’s the reinvention of an established narrative through his own lens.
Moon is currently the subject of a documentary being made by British director and producer Jack Bond, who has previously spearheaded projects that chronicle George Orwell, Salvador Dalí, Werner Herzog, Roald Dahl, Albert Camus, Charlotte Rampling, and Vanessa Redgrave. Bond continued filming when Moon met up with friend, fan, and legendary photographer Mick Rock in New York. Between creating the portraits seen above and being filmed, Rock spoke with Moon about everything from the color of his underwear to the use—or lack thereof—of marijuana. —Emily McDermott
MICK ROCK: We’re doing the interview. We’re going to be very quick. Then I’ll fuck off and not bore you. All this art, man, look at this shit everywhere—coffee cups, brushes, paint, and crayons.
CHRIS MOON: Where should we start? Why I’m here?
ROCK: How we met?
MOON: That was a dark happening.
ROCK: It was dark and it was a moon-lit night.
MOON: It was some strange fate.
ROCK: I saw something in you. It was through Jonnsie [Chris Jonns], wasn’t it?
MOON: Yeah, through Westie [Liam West, Jonns’s business partner], and Jonnsie, my space cowboy manager of New York. He owns the building we’re doing the pop-up in.
ROCK: He’s an excellent fellow and he’s a friend of mine. We decided that the time had come to get Mooney an image, ’cause you’re a beautiful young man. [laughs] But it was a terrible photograph! It had none of your charisma. Now the charisma is your art. But we fucking nailed it today. Got some art in the pictures. [laughs] What do you want me to ask? I’ve not seen your underwear. What color is your underwear?
MOON: I haven’t got any on. I’m wearing a fuckin’ cat suit.
ROCK: He’s wearing a cat suit and he hasn’t got any knickers on! Me, I always have knickers on.
MOON: Did you know the interview would be about this? [both laugh]
ROCK: We should be sensible. For me, you look like the James Dean of the art scene. We’re selling sex as well as art, you know, the way you have to do today. You can’t just sell the art—we’d also like a little bit of sex on the side, if you don’t mind. And that sex can just be your image. Oh! Look at that bird out there, just look at it.
MOON: There it goes!
ROCK: So we’re looking out the window and this bird is pecking away at these twigs. He’s very energetic.
MOON: Fighting for his life out there. So what would you like to know?
ROCK: How about what attracted me to your work, or your trousers? [laughs] You have a lot of paint on your trousers right now, I’ll tell you that.
MOON: I’m a walking palette.
ROCK: I think you need to speak about the bigger works.
MOON: The good thing about this work is that I’m punching color. Color is key with this work. I’m doing a pop-up show, it’s a party, and so I want the work to dance a little. It’s my first show here, so the work will be an introduction to hopefully a relationship with the egos and concrete of New York. The thing with this work is underpainting. I’m containing the pictures. The picture that interests me at the start usually gets hidden.
ROCK: It’s more raw. It’s more exposed. Right?
MOON: Yeah, and that opens it up. With this work, there’s no finish. They happen and the color at the end helps me stop. It’s like, “I’m stopping,” rather than, “That is done.” The construction of the work is a constant battle between me and the paint. The decisions become organic and the process undetermined.
ROCK: You stop because you lost the point; it must be the end. It’s not quite the same as painting—you take months—but I go into that with photo too. The longer the night goes, the more interesting it gets. The thing is, Mooney, food will get in the fucking way. You want coffee and marijuana. In your case, you won’t do marijuana ’cause, like my friend Lou Reed always told me, it made him paranoid. Lou always got paranoid. But anyway…
MOON: So color leads you as well as it leads me? When you’re reinventing your shots, does it start with a different color?
ROCK: For me, it doesn’t matter. Whatever motivates me. It could be money. But once I’m through the door, even if I’ve taken your money, I’m into it. Once I’ve made the move, I’m into palling around. It’s all about poking about. It’s got nothing to do with business. It’s got everything to do with getting incredible images… You should be projecting some of the video stuff.
MOON: I was thinking of projections. I wanted to light this fuckin’ building up, but my time ran out and the work needed my attention.
ROCK: What more do you want? We’ll make up stories. We’ll lie. I hate that realism shit. You want realism, you can pay me three times as much.
MOON: This is the start of a journey really. I’m new here, whereas you’re kind of the art god, the art queen. You’ve been around a few blocks in New York. I’m just starting to get around. I’m hobbling around like PacMan. Mostly, it’s been a lot of work for me.
ROCK: Which is very good. You’re a good lad, you make great art. You have a burgeoning career. You just needed to get over here. I mean, Andy Warhol, they can put out a pair of his dirty underwear, as long as it’s got his signature, and make a fuckin’ fortune.
MOON: In the art world, yeah. When I was growing up in Essex, museums were feeding art magazines and the livelihood. But now, you’ve got filled with empty calories. That’s why it’s good to be here and lock arms with the establishment of the art world. New York, at the minute, I think, is the excitement of the art world. It’s a machine and that’s why I want to do the pop-up, to bring some of that essence back, and get people remembering what it’s all about. It’s not about the dollar sign.